What I Read Online – 08/09/2011 (a.m.)

    • Perhaps we have forgotten that pastoral ministry is war and that you will never live successfully in the pastorate if you live with a peacetime mentality.
    • No, the war of the pastorate is a deeply personal war. It is fought on the ground of the pastor’s heart. It is a war of values, allegiances, and motivations. It is about subtle desires and foundational dreams. This war is the greatest threat to every pastor. Yet it is a war that we often naively ignore or quickly forget in the busyness of local church ministry.
    • He is arguing that the DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin inserts me into the middle of my universe; the one place reserved for God and God alone. Sin reduces my field of concern down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. Sin really does make it all about me.
    • Because the inertia of sin leads away from God’s purpose and glory toward my purpose and glory, as long as sin is inside of me there will be temptation in ministry to exchange God’s glory for my own.
    • Remember, a pastor’s ministry is not just shaped by his knowledge, gifts, skill, and experience, but also by the condition of his heart.
    • The war for the gospel. Not only should we actively battle for the gospel as the fundamental paradigm for every ministry of the church, but we must also fight for the gospel to be the resting place of our hearts as pastors.
    • Pastor, no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one else talks to you more. The things you say to yourself about God, you, ministry, and others are profoundly important, shaping your participation in and experience of ministry.
    • My experience with hundreds of pastors is that many pastors sadly function in a regular state of gospel amnesia. They forget to preach privately to themselves the gospel that they declare publicly to others.
    • Also, when you live out of the grace of the gospel, you quit fearing failure, you quit avoiding being known, and you quit hiding your struggles and your sin. The gospel declares that there is nothing that could ever be uncovered about you and me that hasn’t already been covered by the grace of Jesus. The gospel is the only thing that can free a pastor from the guilt, shame, and drivenness of the hide (“never let your weakness show”) and seek (asking ministry to do what Christ has already done) lifestyle that makes ministry burdensome to so many pastors.
    • The Gospel Coalition has released another video discussion involving Mike Horton. In this installment Mike talks with Ligon Duncan and Kevin DeYoung about whether or not pietism and confessionalism need to be mutually exclusive–or if that is a false dichotomy to begin with in the history of Reformed churches.
    • “Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe …” (66)
    • Consider what Christ has done for you. He died for you. O what did he bear for you. If you knew the pains, the distress, and the agonies the glorious Son of God underwent for you, how would the thoughts of his kindness and love to you overcome you. . . .

       

      God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it. You may be familiar in your expressions of your love to Christ, as little or unworthy as you are, for he is near to you. He is come down from heaven and has taken upon him the human nature on purpose, that he might be near to you and might be, as it were, your companion. . . . You may place yourself in his divine embraces.

       

      Therefore don’t let your unworthiness discourage you. Let it heighten your surprise and cause you to express your love in the most humble manner possible. But let it not keep you at a distance or change the expressions of your love. You may want humility in your love, but you never can be guilty of any excess in the joys of divine love. . . .

       

      Let these considerations influence you to the love of God and Jesus Christ, to love them with a superlative love and love nothing contrary to them, and love nothing above them, and love nothing equal to them, and love nothing along with them with any parallel love. And express your love by doing for them by being willing all your days to labor and suffer for the glory of God. Can you think of living so as to dishonor God and to be a stumbling block to others and a disadvantage to religion without the utmost dread of it and being sick at the thought of it?

       

      –Jonathan Edwards, “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” in The Glory and Honor of God: Volume 2 of the Previously Unpublished Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (ed. Michael McMullen; B&H, 2004), 338-41

    • Dr. J. I. Packer preaches on Hebrews 13:7-8 at a recent memorial service in Vancouver for John Stott.
    • John Flavel (1630-1691):

       

      Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers. By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.

    • Based on where your people are, not where you think they should be
    • Based on how good and seasoned a preacher you are
    • To leave your people longing for more, not less
    • No legions of interns to assist the hapless technological troglodyte. No iPad backup fetched whilst the cameras for the big screen cut to a shot of a stunning ocean scene while “How Great Thou Art” echoed forth from the praise band. No,in the ultimate demonstration of un-hipness (in a fashion that would make Tower of Power smile), the middle-aged man hands off the “new-fangled” device to the tech-savvy son. How uncool! And, to top it all off, Trueman was wearing a suit while doing this. A suit! The writers for an ABC family series could not have scripted it better. Indeed, with this kind of device malfunction, I couldn’t help but be transported to the Stonehenge scene of This is Spinal Tap.
    • Christianity is a Reasonable Faith, Making Science Possible
    • How, I cannot tell you. Although Discovery is liberal in its CG usage and Hawking comes up with all manner of easily understood metaphors, his attempts to explain how, exactly, the big bang emerged from a state of nothingness required an understanding of physics that was beyond me. “If you are not a math head,” he concedes far too late in the proceedings,” this may be hard to understand.” Indeed.
    • So, like its alternative, belief in Hawking’s premise is an act of faith
    • American universities are largely populated by people who don’t fit either of these categories—often really smart people for whom the prospect of several hours attending to words on pages (pages of a single text) is not attractive. For lovers of books and reading, and especially for those of us who become teachers, this fact can be painful and frustrating. We love reading, we think it’s wonderful, and we want other people to think so, too. “What we have loved,/Others will love,” wrote Wordsworth, “and we will teach them how.” A noble sentiment! Inspiring! But what if, after great labor, we discover—this often happens—that we can’t teach them how? Whose fault is that?
    • So it’s important to dissociate reading from academic life, not just because teachers and professors make reading so much more dutiful and good-for-you than it ought to be, but also because the whole environment of school is simply alien to what long-form reading has been for almost all of its history.
    • “We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.” Such will be our fate “unless we try to prevent this danger by separating those books which we must throw out or leave in oblivion from those which one should save and within the latter between what is useful and what is not.”
    • “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
    • Bacon tells such worried folks that they can’t read them all, and so should develop strategies of discernment that enable them to make wise decisions about how to invest their time. I think Bacon would have applauded Clay Shirky’s comment that we suffer not from “information overload” but from “filter failure.” Bacon’s famous sentence is really a strategy for filtering.
    • “To be successful today, it not only becomes necessary to skim, but it becomes essential to skim well.
    • “When the only information on the topic is a handful of essays or books, the best strategy is to read these works with total concentration. But when you have access to thousands of articles, blogs, videos, and people with expertise on the topic, a good strategy is to skim first to get an overview. Skimming and concentrating can and should coexist.”
    • I am not at all sure that deep attention to anything in particular can be taught in a straightforward way: It may, perhaps, only arise from within, according to some inexplicable internal necessity of being. Some people—many people—most people—will not experience that internal necessity of being in books, in texts. But for people like Erasmus (with his “cry of thankful joy” on spying a fragment of print) or Lynne Sharon Schwartz (“Can I get back to my books now?”), books are the natural and inevitable and permanent means of being absorbed in something other than the self.
    • I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him.
    • “preaching is indispensable to Christianity.”
    • Nevertheless, when a man of God stands before the people of God with the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his heart, you have a unique opportunity for communication.
    • I find it helpful in my own study to ask two questions of the text — and in the right order. First, “What does it mean?” and second, “What does it say?”
    • “The text means what its author meant.”
    • Beyond that, we must accept the discipline of grammatical and historical exegesis, of thinking ourselves back into the historical, geographical, cultural, and social situation in which the author was writing. We must do this to understand what the text means. It cannot be neglected.
    • “What does it say?” If we ask the first question without asking the second, we lapse into antiquarianism, unrelated to modern reality.
    • On the other hand, if we leap to the second question, “What does it say today?,” we lapse into existentialism, unrelated to the reality of biblical revelation. We have to relate the past revelation of God to the present reality of the modern world.
    • The attractiveness of liberal or radical preaching, whatever it is called these days, is that it tends to be done by genuinely modern people who live in the modern world, understand it, and relate to it. But their message often does not come from the Bible. Their message is never rooted in the textual side of the chasm. We must combine the two relevant questions.
    • We decide to read a particular book, or see a particular play or exhibition, and spend the evening discussing it. We give most attention to books. We go around the circle and give our immediate impression before eventually turning and asking “Now, what has the Gospel to say to this?” I have found it enormously helpful to be forced to think biblically about modern issues.
    • I think wide reading is essential. We need to listen to modern men and women and read what they are writing.
    • Well, in the more liberal churches, it falls woefully short of being fully biblical. Amongst the evangelical churches it falls short by being less than fully contemporary. I can only repeat the great need of struggling to understand the issues of the modern world. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous correlation between the issues of the biblical world and the modern world.
    • The Holy Spirit certainly can and does apply the Word for the people. But it is wrong to deny our own responsibility in the application of the Word.
    • I have learned to add application to exposition — and this is the bridge-building across the chasm.
    • Yet the New Testament is very clear that the cross stands at the center. It worries me that some evangelicals do not focus on Christ crucified as the center. Of course, we preach the whole of biblical religion, but with the cross as central.
    • I think my main word to American preachers is, as Stephen Olford has often said, that we belong in a study, not in an office. The symbol of our ministry is a Bible — not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.
    • Jesus preached to the crowds, to the group, and to the individual. He had the masses, the disciples, and individuals coming to Him. He preached to crowds, taught the disciples, and counseled individuals. We must also have this focus. It is all in the ministry of the Word.
    • We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents.

       

      Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance?

       

      Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their elders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question, “Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?” Who does not prefer civility to barbarism? (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 42).

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

About Joe Fleener

Lover of Christ & His Gospel, Husband to Mandy, Father to three wonderful children, Servant to the Local Church, Bible College Lecturer
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